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Your first 90 days as a father

By Adam Elder, Esquire
updated 8:39 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
"Getting him to fall asleep in your arms is the dad skill sine qua non."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The birth of your child makes you feel immediately like an adult
  • Interrupted sleep might be something a new dad never gets used to
  • Stress of raising a baby can take a toll on your relationship -- try to stay strong

(Esquire) -- Every day will be hard, but they're supposed to be, aren't they? And most days will be amazing. They should be, too.

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Day 1: Buckle up! The day of your child's birth is a wild ride that features a bit of everything: tension, anticipation, sleep deprivation, delirious joy, friends, family, in-laws and sketchy hospital food. There is no moment that compares to holding your baby for the first time. You are relieved and overjoyed, yet feel the arrival of massive responsibility. You truly feel like an adult now. Try to be cool, calm and supportive throughout.

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Day 2: Unless you're a firefighter, you might never get used to interrupted sleep. Agree to take the early-morning stretch: You're awake well before work, alone with your baby, watching the sunrise -- and watching him watch the sunrise. Getting him to fall asleep in your arms is the dad skill sine qua non.

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Day 3: Your meals are now eaten in shifts, amid the plaintive, desperate screams of a newborn. You will understand the importance of the little rituals in your relationship like dinner-table chitchat (sharing moments of your day, the latest gossip, laughter), and now need to create new ones.

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Day 7: You agree to buy anything -- swings, bassinets, rockers -- that might make your baby sleep easier. Most of them won't. The fine folks at the Babies 'R' Us return counter seem to be understanding.

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Day 10: Outside of work, everything you do will now be subject to interruption. Finishing a meal, seeing a movie all the way through or even making it out the door is an unexpected triumph.

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Day 11: On his bad days your baby will cry nonstop, for no discernable reason (he's fed; his diaper is clean; he appears comfortable). You each put hours into calming him, without result. You feel awful losing your temper on a 10-pound little human. You vow to do better next time.

Day 13: There is a song out there, whichever one it is for you, that will calm your screaming baby. Search every stop on the FM dial, the Internet, and your iTunes library until you find it.

Day 15: You will think dark thoughts. Remind yourself your baby won't be this helpless and irascible for long. Everything shall pass. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Day 17: After months of harboring quiet resentment for your childless friends, for the first time, you suddenly -- and most unexpectedly -- feel pity for them.

Day 19: The first text from your partner that involves adult conversation instead of baby photos, videos, updates or a shopping list will take you back, Proust-like, to your once-glamorous, carefree, kid-free relationship days.

Day 21: Cards. Flowers. Effusive flattery. Find the right moment. Cross your fingers the baby stays asleep.

Day 30: Going anywhere with your baby is an event. A table of pretty girls will turn in unison through the window of a restaurant as you walk by. Old ladies at the market will ask how old he is. Gay men will unfailingly compliment him. He controls a room wherever he goes. You will enjoy the attention.

Day 32: Small disagreements with your partner metastasize into ugly ones as you each become a conduit for all the stress of raising a baby that you can't take out on the baby himself. Be aware of it. Apologize when you're in the wrong.

Day 38: A thousand new photos on your phone since birth. You'll be glad you took every single one. Back 'em up before you run out of memory!

Day 52: Now finally seems like a good time to connect with old friends you haven't seen since they had kids.

Day 61: You discover that introducing your baby to your grandfather and getting that multi-generation photo is one of the more underrated moments in a man's life.

Day 67: It's difficult to walk out the door to work some mornings. You envy your partner getting to spend all day with your baby, and you daydream about all the things you'll do with your family in the coming weekend.

Day 77: Before he was born you promised yourself that you'd keep baby paraphernalia to a minimum. His stuff is now everywhere. Your home feels smaller than ever.

Day 78: Ask for that raise.

Day 80: You swear your partner has never looked this good. And her nascent maternal skills have added a whole other dimension to your affection for her. Let her know -- she needs to hear it more than you realize.

Day 85: A hotly anticipated new restaurant will open, and chances are you won't notice or won't care. If you do go, you'll dine there at 5:45. The hostess will seat you near other young families.

Day 90: There comes a day when you can palpably feel the change -- suddenly your baby is crying less and sleeping more. After 12 manic months of pregnancy and new parenthood, you too have come a long way, and without turning into a hapless TV dad. You realize that more than anything else, babies make you appreciate the present and look forward to the future.

And isn't that ultimately what we all want most in life?

How were your first 90 days at a parent? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter @CNNLiving or on CNN Living's Facebook page.

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